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Tampa Bay shoppers flock to Small Business Saturday markets

Black Friday who? Shopapalooza and other markets drew big crowds this weekend.
Shoppers crowded Vinoy Park Saturday for the annual Shopapalooza Festival. More than 225 vendors set up shop for the "local alternative to Black Friday." [SARA DINATALE  |  Tampa Bay Times]
Shoppers crowded Vinoy Park Saturday for the annual Shopapalooza Festival. More than 225 vendors set up shop for the "local alternative to Black Friday." [SARA DINATALE | Tampa Bay Times]
Published Nov. 30
Updated Nov. 30

ST. PETERSBURG — The busiest shopping weekend of the year might have peaked on Saturday, as shoppers crowded outdoor markets to support local businesses.

The two-day Shopapalooza Festival took over Vinoy Park as the “local alternative to Black Friday” with more than 225 vendors. Hundreds of people browsed through the booths on Saturday, eyeing everything from mini cacti and vintage sunglasses to books, Brazilian bikinis, and booze.

“I come here for gift inspiration," said St. Pete resident Jennifer Caruthers. “Day one, I walk around. Day two is to pick up the things I decide to buy.”

The outdoor market was much more appealing to Caruthers than waiting in line at big box retailers on Black Friday.

“I avoid it like the plague,” she said. "And I shop local when I can.”

In the Old Northeast, local market Indie Flea set up a pop-up shop on Saturday. The seasonal Saturday Morning Market, which sells local produce, plants and gifts near the Rowdies Stadium, was also brimming with people.

In Tampa, the Oxford Exchange hosted a Gift Bazaar and Seminole Heights held its annual Holiday Shop Hop. The City of Tampa put together its own “Shop Small Tampa” directory as a guide to local businesses running deals through Thanksgiving weekend.

Related: With Black Friday deals online, why do Tampa Bay shoppers head out on Thanksgiving?

The inception of Small Business Saturday began in 2010, according to the National Retail Federation. The industry association used survey results to estimate that about 67 million people nationwide shopped on Saturday alone. Of that number, 78 percent were specifically supporting smaller businesses.

“There’s a lot of optimism this shopping season,” said Florida Retail Federation CEO Scott Shalley. “A lot of the tariff concerns have quieted down... and people are getting out and shopping.”

Shalley said one out of every five jobs is related to the retail industry in the state. And for those retailers just starting out, small business markets, which draw big crowds, can be a crucial step.

The two-day Shopapalooza Festival will also run Sunday at Vinoy Park from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. [SARA DINATALE | Tampa Bay Times]

Jilliann Ortiz of Tampa has been running her online clothing store, Prime Attire, going on three years. She tried the last two years to get a spot at Shopapalooza but the roster filled up too quickly.

It was finally her turn to fill a booth this year with fashionable pieces targeted to her fellow “boss babes.” She had a chance to connect with local shoppers in a personal way that’s difficult to do via her online store.

Her end goal is to get her own brick-and-mortar location. But for now, she’s thinking ahead to Shopapalooza 2020.

IF YOU GO:

Shopapalooza Festival

Vinoy Park, St. Petersburg

Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

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